Photo Shoot

My amazing, most wonderful husband bought me a camera for our anniversary. The one I used was from the early 2000s (the horror!) and Zach said I could no longer use the camp camera. I thought I would have to wait forever awhile before Zach saw a new camera as a “need” as much as I did. But he loves me and knows how much I love taking pictures of the kids and crossing out words in blogger, apparently, I’m obsessed.

So while I was cooking and he was grilling Zach had time to snap a few of our beauties.

The whole crew. We love this picture because this is them right before we yell at them ask them to say “cheese”. Seriously, you can see their personalities shining through in this one.

Commence to the close ups.

And you thought you had the cutest kids in the world. Pphhhh

1st Day of School!

And I’m only a week late. 🙂 School started last Tuesday for the “big 3”, as we call them. Actually, school started August 5th, but we didn’t transfer them in until Tuesday. Let me back up:

Last year Trysten attended a school called Lincoln Academy. We had transferred him there from Buffalo Elementary for a number of reasons but one of the main ones was because Lincoln had a population that resembled our family a really diverse student population. It was a great school, Trysten had an awesome teacher that was constantly challenging him (his teacher one day told me that Trysten keeps him up at night trying to find ways to keep him challenged, I appreciated that more than I can say!) and he really learned so much socially as well.

But then we brought home our newest boys earlier than we thought we would so we had stuff to look into. Lincoln does not have an ESL (English as a second language) program, which troubled us seeings Tomas speaks no English. After much research, Zach found a school within our district that has both a full time ESL teacher and a speech and language therapist. This ESL teacher agreed to test Tomas to make sure he needed it. Since he clearly copies everything we say not knowing what it means doesn’t speak any English, she agreed he needed lots of help.

After taking a tour through the building we remembered that one of Zach’s very best friend’s moms was the Kindergarten teacher and one of Zach’s brother’s friends was the principal. We also knew a handful of other teachers through the building as well. The principal was dynamic, and enthusiastic, we got to see the teachers interacting, it was all very good.

I told Trysten that if he had strong objections to transferring to Monroe than we would pretend to hear him out, we didn’t want to make this decision without him (this would be his 3rd school in 3 years we suck). Trysten said the only reason he wanted to go to Lincoln was because he knew his way around and knew the expectations of his teachers. He wasn’t at all upset to hear we would probably transfer, knowing his brother needed the extra help.

So we signed them up. Tariku would be in our friend’s mom’s class (praise God!), Tomas would be in a 1st grade class that also has Vietnamese and Spanish speaking ESL kids, and Trysten was getting nothing in the deal in a class with a teacher that came highly recommended.

Before they even started we toured the building one more time. This was just 2 days after our first meeting at Monroe and already Tariku and Tomas’ teachers had their desks with their names on it, water bottles with their names on it and lockers with-you guessed it-their names on it. Tomas’ teacher told us she had told the kids all about Tomas and had done a little research on Ethiopia. The kids were fighting over who got Tomas as their “school buddy”, until one of the kids “claimed” his dad was from Africa so naturally, he won. How amazing is that?

Anyway, Tuesday they started. Trysten was visibly nervous, Tomas was jumping out of his skin excited and Tariku was a mix of both.

I dropped them off the first week while the bus routes changed to include us (we live 20 minutes from the school). This was a blessing, I got to take lots of pictures for the first day!

Tariku and his teacher (who we just love!)

Outside his class

Trysten’s class on the first day.

I didn’t get any of Tomas, to be honest I was scared poopless I was preoccupied with making sure he knew we were coming to get him after school, that he knew I loved him, that his teacher saw him and held his hand as he walked through the threshold of his class, that he saw my big dumb-ass grin and ridiculous wave. That he knew I was his mom and he was my baby, trudging off to school for the first time.

I cried. Probably more so for Tariku than anyone else. Tariku is one of those who lacks a little self confidene. He is very sure of himself when he is absolutely wrong talking about things outside of academics but when it comes to learning or letters or numbers, unless he’s 100% sure-he won’t answer or he’ll constantly second guess himself. It’s heartbreaking to watch one of the smartest kids I know hold so much self doubt.

But they all did well. All of them have made new friends, Tomas was sad to hear he wouldn’t be going to school today or tomorrow. Tomas’ teacher is making next week “Ethiopia week”. They will greet each other with “Selam” (“hello” in ET) and say good bye with “chao” (“good bye” in ET). The teacher is doing a presentation on Ethiopia and will ask Tomas the words for certain animals, etc. As she said, “Tomas will learn a lot from us this year but we might learn even more from him!” Seriously? Brings tears to my eyes thinking of God’s abundance in this particular issue.

Tariku’s teacher came up to me the second day, “So we have a little perfectionist on our hands, eh?” Yeah, pretty much. Turns out he started crying when he kept messing up the lowercase A. “From whom might he get that?” She asks. She’s known Zach since he was just a wee one so she knew he wasn’t one and since I haven’t given my kids a bath in a week don’t hold the typical markings of a perfectionist either it must mean this is a nature thing and not a nurture.

And Trysten, it turns out, has 3 other kids who have transferred in from different schools. He’s made fast friends and even got invited to a birthday party already. Trysten told me yesterday that he wants to go back to Monroe next year so I think that’s a good sign.

There you have it, first week of school summed up. “The littles” start preschool on Monday so be excited for a post on those 2 crazies on Monday. As for Monroe, it looks like we’ve finally made one good decision!

8 Years

8 years ago my hubby promised to love me for the rest of forever, and I promised to do the same.

We were young, and marrying young gets a bad rap for good reasons sometimes, but we’ve got a lot of hard work, support and luck on our side so getting married young happens to have worked out really well for us.

We’ve changed since those “kids” 8 years ago, but we’ve been lucky to change together. Honestly, when we first started we were all about growing up quickly. We wanted the house, and the yard and the 2 large SUVs, we wanted the Benjamins everything our parents had worked hard for many decades to get. I remember our third anniversary we actually went shopping for bigger diamonds for me even though we didn’t have the money. Today, our wedding rings look like this.

Zach picked these bad boys up in one of the shops in Ethiopia. Just a little bull horn to seal the deal of forever. We think they look awesome and I think I look ridiculously pale we couldn’t be cuter with our matching rings.

Since that time 5 years ago, we’ve shrunk our income, I decided to stay-at-home, we aren’t buying cars every 2 years and we are tightwads sensible with our money.

We’ve gotten closer to God and closer to each other over these last 8 years and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

But this man, he is everything to me he really is. I remember thinking when I married him that I couldn’t possibly love him more than in that moment but I was so wrong. Because each day is better than the last and my love really does only grow.

I don’t know if it will stop but I still get giddy around 5pm knowing he’ll be walking in the door in the next few minutes. I still like getting dressed up from time to time and watching his reaction (he’s good at humoring me in those moments as well).

8 years and 5 kids later he’s still the only guy for me…till death do us part.

Tomas

Our big 6-year-old. Full discretion here, we nickname our kids. We have nicknames that we share with our kids and then ones we do not. Zach and I like to talk about our kids behind their backs talk about my days with the kids so we need nicknames to do that.

Tomas? Well Tomas we named “Beefy”. That sounds bad to those who don’t know him but believe me when I tell you that this kid is solid. As an example, Trysten is 1″ taller and 10lbs lighter than Tomas. It’s amazing. Tomas has a barreled chest, and a thick waist (it has gotten so much better since we got rid of his giardia though). Solid kid, absolutely.

I’m bringing this up so you can picture the effort it takes to pick him up and rock him when he’s hurt or how difficult it is to not wince smile with pride when he runs headfirst at top speed into my arms.

But he’s starting to do both of those things with me, which is a huge improvement from just a few weeks ago.

Tomas has started to look at me with a warm smile and a giggle on his lips. He’s started to tease me and come to me with a question or a problem. It’s no longer exclusively daddy, and in a lot of cases he even seems to prefer me.

Our relationship has been very organic, I’ve purposely let him take his time getting to know me. I don’t force anything (though once in awhile I would do attachment related eye contact things) because I knew for the first few months he just needed to start to like me, then we could work on the love and trust deal later.

I think for him, and this probably wouldn’t work for everyone, giving him the freedom to come to me on his terms has been exactly what he needs. I think he needed to feel in control of the relationship with a woman for the first time and in letting him have some control in that, he has allowed himself to feel all kinds of things he was holding back for me.

Because of our newfound budding relationship, we have been able to see more of Tomas’ personality that the nannies/caretakers told us about in Ethiopia. He is fiercely smart, really funny and playful, he is helpful and kind. Tomas is wimpy at times sensitive and full of joy. He has also gotten so much better at resisting the urge to “mommy shop” and, for the most part, no longer looks longingly at various dark-skinned dudes in hopes that they’ll be his dad.

Tomas sleeps well, takes naps well and is overall just a great kid. I am a little nervous the caretakers might have told him that he has to “be good” or we’d send him back, that is how good he is.

Tomas (and Trysten and Tariku) start school tomorrow. Trysten will be in 2nd, Tomas in 1st and Tariku in K. We have switched schools from last year (I’ll go into that more in another post) because this new school has a terrific ESL program. We’ve spent the last week working with the ESL teacher and the boys’ teachers on getting them ready.

Tomas is so excited to go to school. His teacher seems awesome. She came up to us last Thursday and told us that she had told the whole class about Tomas. They found Ethiopia on the globe and then she told them about what she had learned about Ethiopia. The kids fought over who could be his “school buddy” and by the time we went in to see his class on Thursday the teacher had picked out his desk and a water bottle. His face lit up.

I am nervous on so many levels for him to go to school but we know it’s the right thing for him, he is ready. I am nervous that all of the relationship stuff that’s been built between us will suffer, I’m nervous kids will tease him at school for not speaking the same language. I’m just nervous.

But I also know something that probably even Tomas doesn’t realize. I know that this is what Tomas looked like when he came into care in Ethiopia:

See that smile? Tomas knows not just how to live through impossible circumstances, but thrive in impossible circumstances.  I know his strength in that thriving will be one of the things we have to break down a bit in order for him to fully trust in us and love us as his forever family but I also know it’s what got him through the last 2 years of his life. I’m not willing to break down the walls yet when he still has much work he needs to do.

But you guys, I’m telling you this without a shadow of a lie, I love him already. In truth, I thought I’d be much more attached to Bini than him right away because of his age, etc. But probably the nature of our relationship and the pace we are letting it go has helped me too. I’ve never put pressure on myself to feel something that wasn’t there with him and, in the end, that has been the sole factor in why I love him so much already.

We have a ways to go, me and Beef, but we’ll go there together and I’m sure months years from now he’ll be calling me “Beef” and I’ll be looking him with the same googly eyes I reserve for all of my kids.

And really, how could I not?

On Binyam

Bee-nom, this is how they really pronounce his name. We had thought it was Bin-yum but it’s not. Bee-nom, it suits him.

The smallest of my clan, and arguably the most needy right now. I’ve never blogged about this because it just didn’t seem “right” or whatever but lately I’ve felt like I could talk about it without sounding…unauthentic or something? I don’t know what the word would be.

Anyway, Binyam has club feet. In the beginning he looked like this (how cute, how sad, how precious?)

One of the women who happened to be there when my boys were relinquished arranged for an American doctor to perform surgery on Binyam’s feet. Now they look like this. In most shoes it looks mostly like he’s severely pigeon toed.

I bring this up only because his future foot issues will probably be a hot topic around here in the coming months. He has his first specialist appointment in less than a month. Probably it will require either another surgery or many different casts/braces.

But don’t let him fool you, this kid is STRONG. You’ve never seen someone run as fast as he does on the outside of his feet. In the beginning I tended to baby him thinking he wasn’t capable of all that he is, my mistake. I have a feeling a lot of people will make the same mistake and he will continually prove them wrong-break barriers that people lay before him.

I also happen to know that his feet are undoubtedly the main reason he came to be in our family. We were open to club feet when not many/no one else was. I guess this is my time to encourage those of you on the adoption journey to look at EVERY condition on that checklist, there are lots of things that end up being a very small deal when you bring your kids back to the States. I’m just sayin’.

But back to Binyam. The cutest, funniest, precious boy. He loves us, he is really starting to love us. Do you know how I know?

Because the kid doesn’t sleep. After almost a week of him sleeping maybe a few hours at night and not at all during nap, I finally called our Social Worker.

In the adoption world we call it “hyper-vigilant”. Binyam is on constant guard, making sure nothing in this new world of his, a world he likes very much, changes. Binyam doesn’t misbehave when he’s not sleeping. He’s not playing, or reading. More often than not he’s literally sitting up staring at the door or laying down staring at the wall. Sometimes he can be found standing next to the door.

Apparently the door thing is probably an indication that he’s making sure no one will leave him. He wants to be the door keeper, he wants to make sure this family stays intact.

We have him sleeping in our room and last night I woke up every half hour or every hour to find my youngest staring at me (not at all creepy, ahem). Get up, lay him down, give him a kiss, whisper “I love you” and then crash. Rinse, repeat every hour.

Surprisingly he doesn’t act out or make bad decisions during the day (which is what most of the other kids do when they are sleep deprived). The best way to describe him is “zombie-like”. He walks around in a daze, appears to almost fall asleep during meals, etc.

So that’s what’s killing me about him. Because usually he’s vibrant, giggly, teasing, loving in an appropriate way, etc. And now, nothing.

After talking with our social worker I feel a bit better, though she didn’t give us any new information she did confirm everything we thought. It will get better once he learns more English, keep doing what you’re doing and trying new sleep arrangements, etc.

We had Tomas ask Binyam why he wasn’t sleeping. Binyam spoke for quite awhile, pointing at the doors of his bedroom. Tomas didn’t have the English words to translate back but we made out a bit of what Tomas was saying back to Binyam. Something about Ethiopia, about us and family and then Tomas told Bini to say sorry to us. 🙂 We are hoping in the coming weeks either Binyam will be able to tell us what is wrong or Tomas will be able to translate for us.

I’m surprisingly okay about this whole thing. A little tired, perhaps, but nothing that a little coffee won’t fix. All things considered this is a pretty good sign. I don’t want our family to change either, and I want him to know that.

This is just sad for me. Sad that a 3-year-old knows so much about abandonment. It’s so wrong for a kid to know this feeling it feels like Earth’s axis should be moved multiple degrees everytime this happens to a little one. That’s how wrong it is.

And now I have 3 kids who know this feeling within every fiber of their being, and again, my mama love isn’t enough to cover them or to make it right.

But it’ll be there, and hopefully this mama love will be enough to start the healing soon. Because I already am loving these newest members of our family. More than I loved Tariku at this stage of the process, truth be told. But it’s a long road, more so for them than for me. I’m just praying that Binyam will keep his eyes on the love we’ve built and break this barrier like he has the rest of them.

Until then, multiple times a night, you’ll hear this from my bedroom. “Go back to sleep, we’re still here, we love you, we won’t leave you, you’ll be in this family for the rest of forever and I am so happy, so thankful I get to be your mommy. Ishi (ok?)”

Bad Blogger

So seriously, it’s been anywhere from 82 degrees to 89 degrees INSIDE my house this summer.

Seriously.

And then my friend, Chrissy, “made” me read the Twilight series. I read the 4 books in 4 days and was a less than awesome mom. But it was worth it because they were a fun (and saucy?) read. I do so love reading.

These are really the only 2 reasons why I’ve been a bad blogger.

I have some pretty great posts ready in the que but first I wanted to talk about my favorite husband because we’re about to celebrate our 8th year of wedded bliss. And I think of him lots actually.

We’re a lot alike the two of us, but there are some pretty unique differences too.

One of them is that I actually really enjoy eating healthy things. Fruits and veggies make me smile from the inside out. I’ve been slowly taking as much prepackaged food out of our house as possible. It’s been a good practice in lots of ways.

Zach, not such a fan of this practice of mine. A few months ago he walks in at lunch and says,

Is there nothing in this house that I can cook in 3 1/2 minutes? Where are my ramen noodles? I need prepackaged food!

And he probably couldn’t be cuter if he tried.

Do you remember the post from our first trip to Ethiopia where we were in the Amsterdam airport? My breakfast was a sausage roll and coffee. Zach’s was a shot of whiskey and a beer (to be fair, it was something like 9pm our time, but 6am their time). We thought we’d do that again.

Thus, my breakfast at Amsterdam. A spinach quiche, coffee and yogurt with granola.

Zach’s. A root beer, piece of pizza and coffee.

At some point I will get him to eat his veggies like a human but until then his smile still melts me so pizza it is.